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Penn State Football

Kiffin: James Franklin, Penn State ‘A Model’ of Minimizing Transfer Portal Losses, Bowl Opt Outs

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and Penn State head coach James Franklin speak with the media ahead of the 2023 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, in Atlanta, Ga. (Paul Abell via Abell Images for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl)

The transfer portal is crazy, but Penn State football has had a pretty sane winter thus far.

Two players– punter Alex Bachetta and reserve WR Cristin Driver— entered the portal the day it opened earlier this month.

Since then, crickets.

Last offseason Penn State lost 13 players– no starters– to the portal over more than seven months. For the most part, it’s easy to explain why Penn State doesn’t lose players to the portal. The team wins a lot. Penn State’s 21-4 combined over the past two seasons. All losses coming against either Michigan or Ohio State, two perennial College Football Playoff contenders. But even the nation’s best programs have key players leave. A case in point is when Ohio State lost starting QB Kyle McCord to the portal earlier this month.

Along with the portal, Penn State also seldom has players opt out of bowl games, which is commonplace in 2020s college football.

A total of three players have opted out over the past two bowl games. This is despite several NFL Draft picks being involved in those games.

Penn State being able to avoid the wildness of major college football has impressed a lot of people. One of them is Lane Monte Kiffin.

“I’m not saying this because he’s here,” the Ole Miss coach said Friday at the joint Peach Bowl presser featuring both head coaches, “but I think Penn State and Coach Franklin have really been a model of whatever they do of how to do this as far as guys not going in the portal, guys not opting out for games, and they’ve done a phenomenal job over the years of it.
I think that’s rare nowadays.”

Although Franklin and Penn State have made keeping everything together look easy, it’s been anything but.

In December, programs like Penn State have to worry about bowl prep, national signing day and the transfer portal, among other things.

It’s a wild, wild time.

I think that’s the challenge, right? This is new. This is new to all of us, and it’s really changed year by year. Transfer portal windows, NIL, I think all these things have changed. So that’s one of the more difficult things is I think in the previous structure, you could kind of rely on past experiences, but this has been a moving target. I think we’re both trying kind of different approaches and trying to figure out what is the best thing for both of our programs. But I think it’s a challenge for everybody right now. This is one of the more challenging times in college athletics and specifically football, specifically when it comes to like Lane mentioned, the calendar and the bowl games specifically and obviously the information that the players are getting from multiple resources.

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